A monument to early transportation in Puerto Vallarta
Day 5 (Part 1)
Thursday. September 16, 2010
I was awake early and enjoyed my morning coffee looking out over Puerto Vallarta, which was far more clean and money than our previous ports. It kind of looked like San Diego, but with less boring people.* There was even a Costco, which, in the context of the local language, I realized was male.
By this time I was having some World Wide Web withdrawals, and the only thing that kept me from utilizing the Internet lounge was the fee of $826,044 per millisecond they were charging. I realized how addicted I’ve become to researching any little thought that came into my head. Questions such as:
“What’s in gooseberry pie, anyway?” (Hint: not geese.)
“Exactly how many bands has Stephin Merritt been in?” (roughly 826,044)
“What does a real Tasmanian Devil look like?”
"...And I never saw a single royalty check from Warner Bros.!"
I’m addicted to the Internet for other reasons, too. At the risk of offending you dear reader, you must know that a man is a man, and one of the great things about the Internet is that it can satisfy my sexual appetite for images such as this, and this, or even, when I’m feeling particularly saucy, this.
The boyfriend, his parents, and I finally came together and disembarked. We climbed into an unmarked, white van (despite years of being told to do the exact opposite) and were whisked away to the “old town” of Puerto Vallarta.
“Old Town,” I have come to learn, is Spanish for “place where European invaders did a lot of building initially, but which we now use for selling shot glasses and t-shirts.”
We were on the hunt for two different churches, the first of which we found right away. It was a humble affair and we only stayed long enough for Chris to say a brief prayer and Fred to smoke a Pall Mall.
Next, we went shopping for drugs. We found a little pharmacy; I was hypnotized by all the strange ointments and salves that major brands I’m familiar with make, but don’t sell in the USA. (Who knew Johnson & Johnson made chocolate-scented eye drops?) I also learned that Mexican pharmacies are a great place to buy vanilla flavoring. Like, there was a huge selection of both real and artificial vanilla. Fascinating!
Chris ended up buying a bottle of pills with a name none of us were familiar with and, due to the lack of English-speaking on the pharmacist’s part and the lack of Spanish-speaking on Chris’, she wasn’t certain what they were for and what they would do. Basically, she was diagnosed and provided with medication based on a serious of pantomimes and loudly enunciated words such as “pain,” sleep,” and “muscle.” The boyfriend didn’t think his mom should be ingesting anything under such circumstances and said so, but Chris is a gambler at heart and, frankly, she always comes out on top, so there it is. Buen provecho.
Having procured her mystery meds, Chris left us and returned to the ship. Fred, the boyfriend and I continued on foot, seeking out the second church, referencing a complimentary but utterly inadequate tourist map that didn’t account for 80% of the streets and buildings actually there. It was rather like being dropped in Manhattan and told to find Caffe Dante using a map of Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom.
Along the way we stopped for cervezas. The boyfriend was seized with a desire to call home and check in with cat & house-sitter extraordinaire, Smithy, to make sure everything was fine.
It wasn’t. Through a long and complicated series of events, our two cats, Fangs and Maybe, had managed to lock her out of the house. If you think this sounds far-fetched, you clearly haven’t met my cats. They are wickedness inherent; their cuteness is merely a survival mechanism that keeps them from being tossed into a river. Smithy answered her phone from our front porch, where she was waiting for a locksmith to come and let her in. By the time Fred and I had enjoyed three beers each (about five minutes) everything had been dealt with and Smithy was back in the house, without the assist of a locksmith. P.T.L.
The second church, Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, was grand. We spent some time investigating its every nook and cranny. The boyfriend and I ooh’ed and ahh’ed over a glass coffin containing a mock corpse of a bleeding Christ.
“It’s the coffee table I’ve always wanted!” I squealed in a whisper.
I was astonished and a little dismayed at what must be a relatively new phenomena in Catholic churches: electric prayer candles. Instead of a tiered shelf of rows of small candles, traditionally lit for a specific prayer by a worshiper, and then left to burn out on its own, these prayer candles were electric. Where once there were candle flames there were now individual, white Christmas lights. You stuck your coin offering in the bottom, and one “candle” would light up.
What bothers me most about this development is – how long does the light stay lit? Did they just average the amount of time a normal prayer candle stays aflame and program it to do that? If the organic nature of a burning candle mystically transmutes via faith into a vehicle for divine interceding, can that be expressed in a digital countdown determined by human technicians? Fire safety aside, I can’t say I was keen on this innovation. It occurred to me to use it to pray for the return of real candles, but I seriously doubted God was gonna listen to a prayer so brazenly cheeky, especially from someone who doesn’t even believe in Him.
Outside the church they were selling various trinkets and iconography, and I ended up buying a lot of them. Prayer cards, rosaries, painting on wood-board – the lot. The vendors, all of them older ladies, seemed simultaneously delighted that I wanted to spend so much of my money on their wares, while a little unnerved by my childlike enthusiasm at selecting what was, after all, some very somber and sacred imagery. None of them spoke any English, but when I snatched up a laminated image of Saint Sebastian – tied to a tree and shot full of arrows – smiled real big, turned to the boyfriend and gleefully announced, “This would go perfect in our bathroom!” I think the ladies knew I wasn’t just some normal, practicing Catholic.
Full of beer and laden with Catholic artifacts, we three men decided is was time to head back to the ship…
Para ser conitnued...
*No offense intended to the boring people who live in San Diego.